Image Credit: NASA

So, in 2012 the National Science Foundation surveyed 2,200 people living in the United States on various issues of "common" scientific knowledge. The poll was released on Friday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and, as Saruman ironically said, "We have work to do."

The main issue seems to be the response to this question, "Does the Earth go around the sun, or does the sun go around the Earth?" When asked that question, 1 in 4 Americans surveyed answered incorrectly. Yes, that is 1 in 4. But before we get all bent out of shape about how ignorant Americans are,  only 66 percent of European Union residents answered this question correctly.

  • 48% of Americans believe that "human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals." That means that less than half of those surveyed accept evolution. That said, when that statement was preceded by "according to the theory of evolution" than number rises to 72%
  • 39% of Americans believe the "The universe began with a huge explosion." (Again, when the phase "according to astronomers" is added, the number rises to 60%)
  • Fewer Americans rejected astrology as "not at all scientific," only a little more than a half. In 2010 around two-thirds acknowledged that it was not at all scientific.
  • The number of people who believe the government is spending "too little on research" fell to 1 in 10 (in the past, it's been 4 in 10). Currently, about 5 in 10 Americans believe government research spending is "about right."
  • Less than half of the participants say they have an "excellent" or "good" understanding of what scientists and engineers do. As a general rule, they understand an Engineers job better than a scientists job.
  • As a general rule, Americans think that science and engineering work is "dangerous" and that scientific work is more dangerous than engineering work.
  • Only one-third of Americans are concerned about the environment. A majority of Americans were worried about a "great deal" or "fair amount" of climate change in 2013 and 3 in 10 believe that "dealing with global warming" should be a priority for the government. Americans are more likely to believe that the changes in climate and temperature are the result of natural instead of man-made phenomena.
  • About two-thirds of Americans support offshore drilling and most Americans support nuclear energy as "one of the ways to provide electricity."
  • Just over half of the participants understand that antibiotics are not effective against viruses.
  • One in Five Americans are interested in "new scientific discoveries" primarily those relating to medical, environmental, and technological developments.
  • "A majority" of Americans visited a zoo, aquarium, or a museum in 2012.
  • Americans are more supportive of GMO crops than residents in other countries.

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